Chris Marston: From the Pumpkin Patch
The Great Pumpkin is an unseen character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schultz.
The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure – comparable to Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny – that seems to only be mentioned by Charlie Brown’s friend Linus Van Pelt. Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Each year the Great Pumpkin invariably fails to appear, and a humiliated but undefeated Linus stubbornly vows to wait for him again the following Halloween.
I bring this up in this milieu, because every once in a while – as is the case with everyone – I say something “in my outside voice,” in such a way that as the words exit my mouth, my foot enters. When this happens, inevitably, the subject matter is either religion or politics. Both are hot topics not only locally and nationally, but on a worldwide scale. In the last few weeks, I upset a local Democrat when I posted a joke on Facebook (even after I prefaced it with my dislike of doing so and my premade apology for upsetting whomever might be offended). I have also watched as a local mosque was defaced only to have a Christian school defaced less than 36 hours later. I fought the urge to respond editorially, as I had already upset a friend with political rhetoric. I did not want to subject myself or my family to the wrath of the Muslim world or that of the Judeo-Christian world, either.
However, to witness the hundreds of locals join together in celebration of beliefs of both of Isaac and Ishmael was nothing less than inspirational.
Linus has a seemingly unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin, and his desire to foster the same belief in others, might be interpreted as a parody of Christian Evangelism by some. Others may view Linus’s lonely vigils, in the service of a being that may or may not exist and which never makes its presence known in any case, as a metaphor for mankind’s basic existential dilemmas.
To compare the struggle for the tiny plot of land that is called Israel to a North American gourd-like squash might indeed be offensive and that is not my intention. That battle is not one of flesh and blood, but of spiritual things. The jealousy and resentment between Isaac and Ishmael and their mothers created an unparalleled hate which has set off wars and atrocities for four thousand years. It was the title deed to the land of Israel and has been the source of the friction between the Jews and the Arabs right up to the present day.
By and large, Muslims believe that the Jews changed and distorted the Bible in order to establish themselves as the heirs of Israel and the Covenant God made with Abraham. However, they fail to explain how the New Testament clearly teaches that the Covenant was made with Isaac and his descendants. And thus enter the Christians.
More than 400 people attended a peace rally at the Islamic Center of the Shenandoah Valley on Sunday. The rally came after someone vandalized the Islamic Center on Friday and the Reedemer Classical School in Keezletown on Saturday. Vulgarities like those painted on both of these buildings should not be considered a healthy example of our American freedoms. We may not share the same beliefs as our neighbor, but our American values should ring clear. It is our American right to freely celebrate and practice whatever religion we might want to.
To defy the hate that it took to deface the property, it only took one look at 800 hands being held to see the love and wish for peace and harmony. To get past the incidents, to move forward, the community came together and began looking past their differences.
As for the Great Pumpkin some see Linus’s belief as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority. Lest I forget my offensive joke posting, that sent many into a debate over the pending Presidential Election.
As with Isaac and Ishmael, Elephants and Donkeys may never get along. The beliefs and platforms of one are despised by the other. Such is the beauty of a two-party governmental system that was adopted by our Fore-Fathers. However, once the mudslinging is over – once the votes are cast – once the arguements are settled – wouldn’t it be nice for the country to come together like the community of Harrisonburg did on Sunday. In some cases, the dislike of one party ovr the other rivals that of religious fanaticism. But does it have to.
Just like we are given the right to practice religion as Americans, we are also given other rights as well. The arguements over these rights puts Americans in a battle that in many cases rivals that of the struggle over Isreal. And yet we never seem to put it all aside and meet like the 400 did in Harrisonburg, in a celebration of peace and love for each other. Yes we have the annual July 4th celebration, and Memorial day and Veterans day and any of a dozen more Holidays that might be brought up for conversation’s sake. But do we ever put it aside politically and love our neighbor like we did on September 12, 2001 – for just being our neighbor.
Charles Schulz himself claimed no motivation beyond the humor of having one of his young characters confuse Halloween with Christmas. In fact in the 1959 sequence of strips which gave birth to the Great Pumpkin, Schulz has Linus suggest that he and the other kids “go out and sing pumpkin carols.”
As for me, I tend to agree with Linus. There are three things you must never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. However, if we can get past our differences, religion and politics might help bring us closer together.
In the meantime, I will be in the pumpkin patch with Linus.
Chris Marston is the editor of www.LurayPageFreePress.com.